June 16, 2016

Don’t underestimate starting small

Don't underestimate starting small | Spruce Rd.

I admit it — one of my first clients was a friend of a friend who owned a pool company. And I am unashamed. I designed whatever creative vision they came up with. Everything from web banners, powerpoint backgrounds and advertisements. Thankfully, I’m sure I’ve lost those design files by now and don’t have proof of the tacky beach ball themed ads.

This client came to me during my last semester of college, and I gladly accepted the extra cash. No contract, clear processes, timelines or roles defined… just the wild west of freelancing.

At this point, you might expect me to run through everything that I did wrong in those early days, but instead I look back at this time as foundational to Spruce Rd.

We talk a lot about gaining a long-term approach to your brand, which is definitely crucial for any successful business. Yet in doing so, we quickly move past the seemingly small moments that provide the steps to move toward our long-term goals. The steps that in hindsight appear as missteps. Ones where we compromised our pricing, time and value, with excitement in hopes of taking a step toward our long-term goal. I’ve made plenty of these “missteps” in freelancing prior to launching Spruce Rd., and have learned to not look back ashamed, but instead appreciate the lessons learned along the way.

Progress over perfection

Before I commit to anything, I have a tendency to over-research to the point of not taking action. My Evernote is full of wild ideas, strategies and brainstorming, just sitting there with little execution. This analytical side of me has its benefits, yet can lead to downfall if I’m not careful.

As I write this, I’m on a road trip with my husband moving across country. During our 12 hour drives, I’m taking advantage of the down time to write, work on my course and business on my laptop. I keep running into the same problem — my battery runs out. So, of course I take to my phone and start the in-depth research on a cost-effective solution to charge my laptop in the car. I’ve read reviews and settled on a $35 option from Best Buy that will solve my dilemma. I begin calling several Best Buy’s on route to see if they have it in stock. Meanwhile, my husband has a very different approach to research. He hears me on the phone talking pricing, and product details, yet what does he do? When stopped at a gas station he comes back to the car grinning with an adapter about 4 times the size of the one I found, and $20 more. He says there were other options, but the attendant up-sold him to this one!

We can’t help but laugh, mostly at how different we approach things. Elliot gets it done, I overanalyze before committing. Both are valid approaches, yet you have to admire anyone who moves forward and makes progress.

The same can be said for your freelance business. If you try to setup everything perfect from the beginning, you’ll end up paralyzed and never start. Though there is part of you that resists moving forward with freelancing until you have clear pricing, processes and perspective defined, there needs to be a push to overcome these fears and make progress. You’ll learn over time how to streamline your process. Until then, you need to play the game to earn experience to shape your perspective. Even if you play the game “wrong,” at least you provided yourself with legitimate hands-on learning opportunities.

Through my first freelancing jobs, as unglamorous as they were, I gained valuable experiences working with clients, learning which jobs I enjoyed most, pricing and setting boundaries. Yes, I’m sure I was aware these were important factors in freelancing at the time, but I wouldn’t have the perspective I now have that was shaped from these early projects.

Maybe you have a full-time job right now, and occasionally take on a freelance project. Maybe you are hoping to transition to freelancing eventually. Either way, I want to encourage you to make progress in light of your long-term goals. Be willing to learn from these experiences, and make steps to refine for the next opportunity. Though you may feel insecure in accepting a small postcard design, production work or heck, even cheesy beach ball ads, you’ll gain valuable insight into freelancing, allowing you to take steps (not missteps) toward your long-term goals.

June 9, 2016

Preparing for a website redesign

Preparing for a website redesign | Spruce Rd. — Are you prepping to redesign your website? Through these tips you'll learn how to plan for the redesign, better reach your audience and improve the functionality of your site. Learn from how I plan to redesign my site in this behind the scenes peek.

If you follow Spruce Rd. on instagram, you’ve seen a sneak peek at my website redesign over the past few months. Yes, months. This has been a HUGE process, and one that has stretched me in so many ways.

As I prepare for my new website launch — in just a few weeks! — I wanted to share my process in restructuring my current site. Maybe you are contemplating a complete overhaul as well, so hopefully this behind the scenes peek will help guide you in the next steps.

Today I’m sharing the process behind the redesign. Once my new website launches, I’ll provide even more insight into the decisions behind the site.

Consider your audience

First and foremost, I need to consider my audience. Initially when I launched my current Spruce Rd. site, my “audience” existed primarily of potential clients. I use quotes around audience, since as we know when you first launch your site you don’t actually have an audience to speak of, but more of an audience profile instead.

Now that I have a year and half under my belt, I’ve gained a much clearer picture of who my website is for, and who I’m building it for years to come. With this in mind, the focus of the entire site needs to shift. Currently the main call to action from the homepage is for potential clients to get in touch. Whelp… that is pretty weak!

The largest portion of my audience right now exists of freelancers and entrepreneurs looking to grow their brand. Whether they are looking for a quick read through branding articles, a complete educational e-course or class, or for professional help with their brand identity.

Through understanding my audience, I’m able to gain a clear picture of how to direct them through my site. Make things easier for them to navigate, and better highlight the services + classes we offer to help guide them.

Take action: Write a list of people who make up your audience. Once you have a thorough list, group them together through common interests. Are they interested in your services, products, articles, podcasts, courses or anything else? Narrow it down as best you can. Create a call to action for each of these audiences. Yes, there will be overlap, and that’s okay!

Determine pitfalls of current website

With my defined audience in mind, and a set of clear call to actions for each group, I needed to comb through my current site and pinpoint any pitfalls. How am I not serving them well? Where is my information getting lost? What alterations should be made?

Though I love the design of my site, and the custom development, I learned that it isn’t serving my audience well. Here are a few pitfalls I’ve pinpointed and plan to resolve with the relaunch.

The homepage is almost useless. The current call to action to get in touch is weak. Though the large sliding portfolio images are beautiful, they do little in the way of presenting the benefit Spruce Rd. offers in terms of branding. Instead, it says “here’s some pretty images. If you want pretty visuals, you can hire us.” The focus is on design, and not on branding. There is a key distinction, and one that isn’t clear currently.

The portfolio is outdated. I know this, and am waiting to re-launch the new site with completely new client work! Instead of focusing on the images, I’m providing a case study for each client branding project. This better shows the intentionality behind the brand design, and preps potential clients for the strategic side of branding.

The about page is incomplete. While there are elements I intend to keep with the new site, overall the current about page is an incomplete picture of Spruce Rd. We’ve shifted from just me, to a complete team, and that isn’t clear on the current site. I do make this clear with potential clients, so no worries there’s no deception there. I would have updated this sooner… but it’s difficult to make these updates on my current site (another struggle).

The new about page will give a clearer picture of who we are as a team, our values, and our process. And not the rinky-dink process that is shown currently — one that dives deep into why we approach brand identity design the way we do, and how it best serves our clients.

The blog articles are hard to sift through. Currently my blog has one primary post, and seemingly endless scrolling and pages to find additional articles. These articles are a HUGE part of my brand, and the current layout is a disservice to their content. I’ve made an effort to better present the articles in a way that is easy to navigate on the new site.

Classes are an afterthought. It is clear that when I initially designed my current site, I didn’t build it with flexibility in offerings. I plan to highlight my educational classes (and create additional mini classes!) on the new site. More on that in a few weeks…

Overall, there are loads of issues with my current site and how it isn’t functioning to serve my audience. When planning a website redesign, it is crucial to dissect the problem areas of your current site. It’s okay to admit you’ve outgrown your current design, and give it a critical eye.

Take action: Navigate through each of your main pages on your current site, and dissect how you’re not best serving your audience (as you’ve defined in the first step). Filter everything through your audience lense, and think of functionality in mind, not design.

Minimize distractions

As with any design, I find such beauty in tailored + edited solutions. Ones that leave distractions off the table, have a clear call to action, and an ease about them. When redesigning my website, I’m aiming to minimize distractions as much as possible. This is much easier said than done! With a growing spread of services, classes and articles, it can be tough to reduce my message down to the essentials.

For context, here are a few sites that achieve this balance in a successful way. Though most of these brands offer one clear service/product, they are still complex in nature. Check out how Squarespace, Evernote, The Quiet Creative, and Leader Bag have removed distractions, allowing them to clearly present their message.

The new Spruce Rd. site will have only two pages in the primary navigation: “let’s work together” and “learn.” This shows the clear divide in my audience between those seeking our professional brand identity services, and those looking for resources on growing their brand. Other pages will filter from these including how to get in touch, classes, articles, etc.

Take action: Evaluate how you can minimize your website. What pages or elements are providing distractions for your users? Prioritize your call to actions, and craft a plan on how to remove any distractions.

Content that drives design

Never underestimate your messaging. The overall message of your brand should drive the design, and not the other way around. Though I am a designer by trade, I am probably more math-brained than anything. Pre-cal was my jam! It only makes sense that the strategy and messaging of my brand is something that I don’t shy away from, and instead get fired up for.

Your website is no exception. When restructuring my current site, this strategy side of it is what has absorbed most of my time. How will I present the Spruce Rd. message in a clear yet approachable way?

Take action: Spend some time — months if you need to — crafting clear content for your brand. Don’t think in terms of design. Focus on your call to actions, your audience, and how your brand is different than others. Find a way to highlight these differences on your site.

What is the design communicating?

Finally… we get to the design! I wasn’t kidding when I said strategy comes first with any form of design, and I definitely practice what I preach.

With my new site design, I’m asking myself what the design is communicating. Design builds trust. It visually presents your messaging. Though it is the last step in this process, it certainly should not be overlooked.

Recently I was chatting with a potential client, and she mentioned that she did not want her brand to appear feminine, as mine does. For some reason this struck a chord with me. Am I leaning too far toward a feminine aesthetic? And if so, why?

My audience is comprised of both male and female, and I’ve never claimed to design solely for female entrepreneurs, or be a #girlboss. The Spruce Rd. brand isn’t narrowed in that way, and instead is geared toward anyone who values quality branding, business and design. No gender in mind. I’m not making a stance here, but it helped me recognize that my current branding needed to shift.

The new site will incorporate more gender-neutral photography and illustrations. The primary colors will shift. These subtle changes will make all the difference in how my messaging is communicated visually. I’m not pursuing a full re-brand, but instead a shift that better fits my vision.

Take action: Ask others what words they would use to describe your design. Is that the tone you are aiming for, and does that resonate with your audience? Be sure your personal design preference doesn’t overrule your target audience.


 

I hope this behind the scenes peek into the strategy behind the Spruce Rd. website redesign provides guidance for you in regards to your brand. It is definitely an iterative process, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Stay tuned in the next few weeks for the complete Spruce Rd. website redesign! I can’t wait to share what we’ve been up to.

June 2, 2016

Prioritize products. Not profits.

Prioritize products, not profits. | Spruce Rd. | Part 4 in the "enduring brand" series. It can be easy to get swept up in the $100k goal, but is that best for your business? The best approach for an enduring brand is a sustainable long-term approach, not fleeting short-term gain financial success.

Have you ever been tempted to shift your focus in an effort to make additional income? Maybe you’ve had the same thoughts as I have:

  • If I offered additional services, I could reach more people — and make more money.
  • If I offered payment plans, more people would hit purchase — and I would have increased sales.
  • If I lower the price, more people would invest — … you get it.

Each of these situations has crossed my mind before, and has been given serious thought. I own a business after all, so profits are definitely a priority. However, one of my core values is to prioritize products, not profits. I measure each decision for Spruce Rd. against this model, to ensure that my brand is consistent and not shifting with the fleeting goal of immediate income.

There are several aspects of what creates an enduring brand. We are in part 4 of a 4-part series that dissects what qualities differentiate enduring brands (read part 1, part 2 and part 3 to catch up!).

Prioritize products. Not profits.

You’ve created your brand for a reason, and I know how easily it can be to get swept away into other directions.

With articles, podcasts and courses teaching you how to make $100k in a few short months, increase sales, etc, you can easily lose sight of why you started to begin with. Before you know it, you are creating an e-book about something you have little experience in, you’re selling ready-made-logos on Etsy, and starting a subscription service. Your brand allowed outside influence to creep in and dictate your next step.

This may seem harsh, but I only know this from experience. I too have found myself tempted by short-term financial gain. Saying things like “Woah — she made $100k from her course, since she added payment plans? Maybe I should do that.”

Rather than get swept up in the perceived immediate success of your business, I encourage you to look long-term. How will this fleeting business decision affect your brand? Does it even align with your overall vision?

Trust me, if you play the long game approach, you will not only have much more confidence in your business, but also will end up with a brand you are passionate about. One that isn’t always trying to keep up with the latest gimmicky sales tactic, or trying to reach clients who aren’t the best fit. Instead — your brand will be known for its slow, steady and consistent quality and perspective. People will trust your brand, keep you in mind for years until they are ready to take that next step.

This is the brand you want.

One way I’ve turned down guaranteed income

If you’ve purchased an online course before, you no doubt have seen the option for payment plans. Essentially, you can purchase the product for lower monthly increments that are easier on the student’s pocketbook, but end up costing them more money long-term. On the surface this looks like a great solution for those who are eager to purchase my product, but aren’t financially ready to commit.

So why would I be turning down this income? Through not offering payment plans on my course, I am easily turning down an additional 20–30% increase in profits, if not more.

The truth about payment plans

So, why don’t I offer payment plans? It’s simple: I don’t want my students to go in debt. I’d honestly rather take a paycut than feel responsible for putting someone in a tight financial position. My desire to have fully committed and serious students outweighs my desire to make additional income.

What seems like an honest question, “do you offer payment plans?” is really telling of that potential customer. Let’s dive deeper into who these potential customers are, that inevitably fill my inbox with each launch of the Share-worthy Design course.

  • First of all, they aren’t serious about purchasing the course. Those that are serious about investing the time and funds to grow their design skills value the education and are ready to hit purchase.
  • Though they may want to take the course, financially they cannot commit right now. I empathize with this situation, so much so I protect them from getting in deeper debt.
  • They don’t value your expertise + product. They will most likely ask for a refund after the first low payment.

So, instead of offering payment plans out of desperation for increased sales, I encourage them to save up for the next launch. If they were willing to pay $100/month for the course over 4 months, save that money and be ready to pay in full for the next launch.

This is also why I have high-quality content available for free. I’d much rather people invest the time learning from my free resources until they are ready to commit. I’ve offered several free workshops, webinars and articles that are full of premium content. It takes me hours to write each article, and countless more to craft my unique perspective and content ideas. This content is free for the taking, so I’d rather people take action from these resources and come back once they are financially ready to commit.

Take it slow

Overall, my goal for Spruce Rd. is to build a long-lasting enduring brand, driven by high-quality services and products. I’ve got countless product, workshop and business ideas that I can’t wait to launch, however I force myself to take it slow. These products, as well as the customers, deserve quality attention. An e-book thrown together in a week won’t do it justice.

I take a slow and steady approach with my brand, and recognize that this definitely slows down the profits. This year, for instance, I am only working on one product — the Share-worthy Design course. I’m devoting all of 2017 to a completely new physical product that I can’t wait to share about! 5 years from now, there is another leg of my business in the works. And I’m still dreaming of business steps in the next 10 years!

All this to say, it is okay to take is slow. Don’t feel rushed to make immediate profits. Create quality products and services, and the profits will come.

 

May 26, 2016

Beyond your comfort zone + conventions

Go beyond your comfort zone and challenge conventions | Spruce Rd. part 3 of the Enduring brand series. Learn to create your own process, niche your services and challenge the conventions.

Every successful business reaches a stage where it goes beyond its own comfort zone, and begins to challenge the convention — status quo, the norm, industry standard. These defining moments are what set your brand apart from others, and allow your voice to be heard.

There are several aspects of what creates an enduring brand. We are in part 3 of a 4-part series that dissects what qualities differentiate these enduring brands (read part 1 and part 2 to catch up!). So far we’ve chatted about creating a long-term vision, and how to protect your pursuits, and today we’re diving into how challenging the convention and breaking free from your comfort zone allow your brand to flourish.

Offer specialized services

As mentioned in part 2 of the “enduring brand” series (Protect your Pursuit), a successful brand narrows their focus. Meaning, they don’t offer every service + product under the sun, instead a successful brand narrows their focus and offers limited services.

There are two reasons why this is the best approach in a service-based business:

  1. Your brand becomes easily associated with that specific service. If you want coffee, what immediately comes to mind? Starbucks probably tops the list. What doesn’t come to mind is a restaurant that serves coffee, along with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Though both may have tasty beverages, one is more successful than the other in the word association game.

    Just as Starbucks monopolizes the coffee market, your goal as a service-based industry should be to monopolize your specific service. 
  2. Another benefit of narrowing your focus is that it allows your brand to grow and improve quality in that service. Your portfolio, or client list, will grow and will allow you gain more valuable experience in that field.

    Alternatively, if you offer a wide array of services, your portfolio will appear scattered and disjointed. Potential clients will be confused if you are the right fit for their investment. A tailored portfolio, showing exclusive quality experience in one service, is much more desireable to potential clients.

 

I know what you are thinking… this means that you will be turning down paychecks. I guarantee it. People will approach you with services that can certainly accommodate, however aren’t in the best interest of your brand. The time you spend on these services outside of your niche, is distracting you from your vision.

I speak from experience here. When I first launched Spruce Rd., I was approached to design flyers, websites on platforms I wasn’t familiar with, and other design collateral. I was even offered a retainer client, which I turned down for the reason that it didn’t fit within my vision. These decisions were tough when I had limited income + current clients booked. It was a serious gut check of sticking to my guns, or bending my own rules.

Even today, a year and half later and a reputation of a branding studio, I receive inquiries to design PDF ebooks, stand alone websites (without branding), and other design collateral. My studio has made the choice to pass up on these projects + potential income, as it doesn’t align with our vision. We believe so strongly in a quality brand design, that we turn down anything else that doesn’t involve a fresh identity. The only exception to this rule is when a previous branding client approaches us with additional collateral. Of course, we are happy to transition their branding to new marketing materials, and in fact encourage it.

Instead of accepting the quick cash for services outside of our niche, I remained confident in my narrowed focus. This has served me SO well, and allowed my brand to evolve into the exclusive branding design studio that it is today.

Create your own process

Once you’ve invested the time into your craft — whether that is lettering, logo design, photography, writing, etc. — create a process that works for you. By process, I mean everything from how you present your work to the client, on-boarding clients, following up, and everything in between.

If you’re newly becoming acquainted to your skillset, it will take time to recognize what best suits your process. Take time to learn from professionals, and see what’s worked for them first, then evaluate what modifications, if any, should be made to your personal approach.

There are several “out of the box” processes that have become the industry norm. Sometimes, these processes exist for a reason, however I encourage you to measure those conventions against your own vision.

How I’ve personally challenged the convention

I spent five years designing for various design studios, in house design teams and freelancing before I established a process that meets the quality of my vision — and one that definitely challenges the industry norm. A bit of background: Typically, when presenting a design proof to a client, the designer will provide about 3 options for the client to select from. This is standard in all areas of design — web mockups, logo design, stationery, brochures, etc.

Well — I’ve gained the experience that tells me this goes directly against my approach. If you’re a designer… don’t lie, you know which of the 3 options the client should hands-down go with. You know which will resonate best with their audience, and which best reflects their brand. I’m going to get real with you. If you’re a designer and present 3 options, and don’t know which is the best option… you didn’t design a thorough solution to give to your client.

So, instead of offering 3 options to my clients for logo designs, my team at Spruce Rd. presents one solution instead. Our clients hire us for our expertise, so we provide them with the solution, rather than allowing them to compromise the design. We go all out on that first proof and fully execute the design. Prior to design, we have a thorough research phase + phone calls to understand the client’s target audience’s needs. I’ll touch more on this approach in a future article, but for now just realize that we’ve definitely strayed from the convention here, and it has paid off in full. Clients typically fall in love with the first proof, and aren’t weighted with which option they should pursue. Win/win for both sides of the project!

Craft your own path

As you begin to layer other products + services to your business, and create a long-term vision, make sure that your plan is unique to you. We all know how easy it is to fall victim to the comparison game, but when it comes to your brand you can’t afford to follow someone else’s footsteps. Craft your own unique path that follows your long-term vision, and isn’t a photocopy of someone else’s brand. Avoid looking over your shoulder, or ahead of you, to see what trajectory your competitors are taking.

For instance, if one of your competitors offers similar services as you do, and then started a successful podcast, that does not mean you should do the same, or would have the same results. What was successful for them does not equal success for you. You have a unique voice, approach and intuition so do it justice and let it shine. Instead of a podcast, you could offer videos, write a book, tutorials, new products or workshops. The possibilities are endless for you to share your voice. Craft your own unique path, and you’ll be on your way to creating an enduring brand.

Challenge the convention

I hope that you feel encouraged from this article, and learn to not be afraid to challenge the convention, step outside of your comfort zone, and carve your own path. I’m looking forward to next week in the final part of the “enduring brand” series! Promise, next week I’m not holding back and I can’t wait to conclude this series with a bang.

May 19, 2016

Protect your pursuit

Protect your Pursuit | Spruce Rd. part 1 of the Enduring brand series. Niche your services, narrow your focus and create a long-term plan for your business

Are you looking to make some quick cash, or are you aiming to create an enduring brand that exceeds your expectations and vision?

This is a telling question that has two polarizing answers.

  • Option A: Involves a money-centric approach, that can easily lead to burnout, a brand you don’t believe in, and another job for yourself.
  • Option B: Allows you to create a strong foundation first, a slow and steady approach, and a business that aligns with your vision.

 

While there is no right answer, I think we all know which option we aim to achieve.

Last week I shared how my best ideas came from my cubicle job, and was overwhelmed by the positive response and encouragement I received. If you haven’t made the time to read through it, I highly recommend you digest part one of this series first, as it provides the groundwork for today’s part 2 of the enduring brand series. We’re getting to some juicy stuff here, to help you build a solid foundation to build your own lasting brand.

Narrow your focus

I’ve seen it pop up over and over again — either when thumbing through resumes at a previous job, or researching for a purchase of my own — a claim that one individual/small business can do it all. Sure, we are all created with multiple passions, but at the same time we surely can’t be an “expert” in several pursuits.

Which would you trust more? A restaurant that markets as the best pizza in town, or the restaurant that offers the “best” fine italian dining, a pub and a chinese food? Sadly, I didn’t make this up. This is an actual restaurant in San Antonio my brother-in-law ordered pizza from and I picked up on the way to their house. Needless to say, I was very confused when I was greeted with a clash of typical chinese restaurant, pub and italian restaurant decor all in one strip mall space.

Despite the recommendation as a good slice of pizza from my brother-in-law, I lost all faith in my evening’s meal, and began to question the quality of this restaurant.

You need to narrow your focus, in order to build a sustainable business.

While on the subject of food, let’s take a look at cooking a meal as an example. When I’m preparing dinner, I read the recipe first and pull together a game plan. I know that I can’t do everything at once, so I take it step by step strategically. First, start boiling the water. While that’s heating up, I’ll cut the vegetables. Taking it step by step, rather than trying to do everything at once. I recognize my limits — I can’t prepare an appetizer, full meal and dessert all at the same time. This would no doubt lead to disaster, a burning pie in the oven, and less than ideal timing.

Find focus and take your business one step at a time. Eventually, you can open up your services and expand through hiring employees/contract work. But first, start with boiling the water and take it from there. Otherwise, you are wasting your time switching between tasks, rather than focusing on one pursuit.

Take a moment to see if you are confusing, or turning away, your potential customers and clients by offering too many services. If you are a graphic designer, do you offer everything from logo design, signage, custom WordPress sites, wedding invitations, illustration and photography? Though you might feel qualified in all of these areas, I would highly encourage you to narrow your focus in an effort to better serve your clients.

Establish a strong foundation

Though you may feel tempted to accept any inquiry that comes through your inbox, this can be a dangerous game to play.

When upholding a long-term approach to your business, rather than looking for quick cash, you allow yourself the freedom to be selective, and choose which clients + services best align with your business. There are only so many hours in a day, and if your business is operating in tangent with a day job, you can afford to be selective. In contrast, if you have a short-term approach to your business you can’t be selective. You’ll accept any client work that comes through your inbox and before you know it you’re offering pub food and chinese cuisine at your pizza restaurant.

These aren’t just business principles I’ve read about, I’ve seen the danger of this short-term approach first hand at a previous job. This design studio accepted anybody with a credit card through their doors — from wedding invites, coloring books, custom websites, illustrations, powerpoints, logos and even board games. The sad part is, I’m sure they started their business with high hopes of creating a fun design studio. What they ended up with was a diluted brand, a scattered portfolio, and a job full of busy work and no passion.

As an employee, I had a front row seat to this #hotmess, and witnessed the lack of clear direction. Their portfolio was too general, and therefore appealed to no one. Why would I book their branding services, when it isn’t clear they have much experience in crafting brand identities? Don’t they design coloring books? Their portfolio comprised of almost 100 projects (I would know, one of my tasks was to update their portfolio), and lacked a clear direction both visually and in services.

Establish a strong foundation in your brand regarding services, and you’ll avoid diluting your brand. Though it may seem backwards to limit your service offerings, you will actually appeal to more clients because of this narrowed focus. People crave specificity. They want to hire the best, experienced and passionate. They don’t want someone who “does it all,” they’d rather work with an expert. The projects you accept and take on, dictate the direction for your brand and inform potential clients of the type of work you offer.

Protect your pursuit

Whether you are pursuing a side business, or own a business full-time, you need to protect your passions. Owning a business is not an easy feat, and requires SO much energy, time and focus. I see you nodding your head in agreement. So why would you compromise this valuable time by pursuing clients or services that don’t meet your passion?

You started this brand for a reason:

  • You saw the flaws in your current employment, and desired to create something better.
  • You wanted to pursue your passion (maybe that’s different than your day job).
  • You have a unique perspective that didn’t align with an existing company.
  • Or maybe you wanted freedom to create a brand you were proud of.

 

Whatever your reason for starting this venture, you need to protect it. Don’t allow yourself to accept any and every client. Make sure it aligns with your brand, and isn’t just a source of quick cash. If you don’t protect your pursuit, you will quickly spiral into a directionless brand dictated by the projects that step into your inbox.

On the flip side, if you protect your pursuits, maintain a long-term approach and narrow your focus you will create an enduring brand that allows you the freedom to pursue your passion. This is hands down the option I would choose any day, over any amount of quick income.

May 12, 2016

My best ideas came from my cubicle job

How to build an enduring brand: part one | Spruce Rd. | A long term approach to your business is the only way to build an enduring brand.

It wasn’t that long ago that I spent my days in a cubicle, daydreaming of creating Spruce Rd. — though it didn’t have a name at the time. My job was pretty great: a structured 9–5 with no work taken home, benefits, co-workers that shifted to friends… the works.

Yet I found myself dreaming of something different. A business where I could implement the core values I firmly believed in, systems I knew were best for clients, and taking action on those BIG ideas I had.

One year later, a sticky situation at the next employer, and countless hours strategizing to make it happen with my husband, I took the leap and started Spruce Rd. Design.

  • Maybe you are sitting in your cubicle right now reading this, dreaming and scheming of making the same move.
  • Maybe you just started freelancing, are lost on the next steps.
  • Maybe you haven’t even thought this is a possible solution for you… yet 😉

 

If you are in either of these situations, I want to take a moment and encourage you to embrace this stage of life. Those years in the cubicle prepped me for Spruce Rd., and gave me experience not only in my skillset, but also in recognizing my values and philosophies in design, marketing and client relationships.

These are the years, as challenging as they seem, that shape your brand in the future. If anything else, you’ll learn what you don’t want to incorporate in your business — which is sometimes just as valuable as acknowledging what you want.

My best ideas came from my cubicle job. The ideas that formed my business, built a strong foundation, and an enduring brand.


Over the next few weeks I’ll be diving into what makes an enduring brand.
Welcome to part one of this series!


 

A long-term approach

As always with my brand, it comes back to a long-term approach. Had I not experienced 5 years of cubicle life, I would not have gained the tactful approach, firm core values and strategy for Spruce Rd. that I uphold today. You see, I knew my industry inside and out. Everything from working with clients directly, the design process, and higher-level decisions for the brand as a whole. Working as an in-house designer allowed me a front row seat to how large brands make game changing decisions, and the ripple effect of each move. These experiences shaped my perspective, and gave me a firm foundation for my brand.

I knew that I couldn’t go into business with a short-term mindset — I’ve seen that in action, and therefore seen it fail.

A long term approach to your business is the only way to build an enduring brand.

This means taking it slow — contrary to what many facebook groups, blog posts and inspirational pinterest quotes tell you. Don’t “take the leap” into business. Instead, train for it as if for a marathon. Build endurance, consistency and experience. You don’t win (or heck, finish) a marathon without training, committing to a consistent schedule and allowing yourself time to train.

The contrary approach of a short-term mindset leads to a fleeting business, another “job” for yourself, and no direction.

Take your time and build something that lasts. A brand that can sustain over time, and most importantly, takes your daydreams into reality.

Embrace your current situation.

I was just chatting with a friend the other day, when she mentioned she wasn’t quite ready to make the move to freelancing (a goal of hers for a while), and instead wanted to stay at her in-house design job and continue to work hard in her career. She then followed this realization by mentioning she felt odd saying that, in light of all other freelancers seemingly shouting to “take the leap” and go for it.

This really got under my skin — the fact that other freelancers discourage the 9–5, so much so that it excludes people and makes them feel out of place for wanting to work hard at their job. Pushing down other’s work ethic, stability and priorities, and instead flaunting that they “don’t work for the man” anymore. They boast about their “freedom” from the 9–5, yet all I see are misdirected priorities in their business.

I commonly see posts in facebook groups celebrating the fact that these freelancers have fired clients, giving virtual fist bumps on this “milestone.” Friends… this is not something to celebrate. This is a business flaw. A horrible business model, and damaging to relationships.

If you’ve created a long-term approach to your brand, you would know what clients aren’t the best fit for you, you would build systems that filter these people out and direct them elsewhere, and you would most definitely aim for quality relationships, not just a one-sided relationship built on money. Firing clients is not a win. Sure, things happen and this might be an action that is necessary to protect your business, but certainly it shouldn’t be celebrated. I just needed to clarify that so I can stop cringing at those posts. #rantover

If you’ve experienced this shame for staying in your day job in lieu of freelancing full-time, don’t buy into it. You are just as valuable as someone who owns a business, and possibly are gaining better experience (and income) than most freelancers. I’ll say it again, my best ideas came from my cubicle job. Don’t allow the delusion of freedom being your own boss disrupt your goals, approach and foundation.

Embrace your current situation, whatever that may be. If your goal is to start your own business, take this time to dissect what will make your brand stand out. Craft values you stand behind. Enjoy this time to develop the solid foundation for your business. Build an enduring brand, rather than a fleeting business that dwindles after a year.

Trust me, this mindset worked well for me and started me on the right path for my business.

Don’t forget why you started

In order to build an enduring brand, never forget why you started. What passionate ideas propelled you forward when dreaming of creating your own business? Shove aside the standard “I wanted a flexible schedule” notion, and dive deep.

For me, I had such a strong perspective on how we could better serve clients, and frankly, what types of clients I’d rather work with. At my previous job, I was tired designing logos one day, and powerpoints (and I’ll admit… one project involved memes!) the next day. It disrupted every fiber in me, to just accept any client and project that walked through the door. We had no direction whatsoever for the studio, and I couldn’t get on board with that. Not to mention the mess of processes, philosophies and ethical issues.

These experiences guided me toward how I wanted to shape Spruce Rd. They are so ingrained in me that I won’t forget why I started this studio, which is why I’ve maintained a consistent voice and brand — and will continue to do so.

If you want to create an enduring brand…

  • First establish your core values
  • Create a long-term approach
  • Embrace your current situation, and learn from your experiences
  • … and remember why you started. This will build consistency.

 

I’m looking forward to diving in deeper next week with part two of building an enduring brand!

April 27, 2016

NOW OPEN! The Share-worthy Design course is in session.

 

Share-worthy Design Course | Spruce Rd. | Learn how to create your own beautiful brand, product or e-course logo + brand identity. This course teaches you everything from typography, color palettes, logo design to creating promotional graphics.

I’ll keep this short + sweet.

The Share-worthy Design for Infopreneurs
course is now available!

 

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If you’re looking to learn the design skills to brand your business, products or courses, I’ve built this course just for you. You’ll learn how to design your own beautiful e-course + product branding — without needing to hire a graphic designer, fumble through Adobe Illustrator on your own, or stress over creating promotional images.

This course has been completely overhauled — with new video lessons, tutorials and a comprehensive workbook!

Here’s just a few reasons why you’ll love the SWD course:

  • You’ll overcome design overwhelm, and finally create a brand identity + logo that you (and your audience) will love.
  • You’ll gain confidence in navigating Adobe Illustrator for all graphic needs (hello e-course branding, sales pages and promotional graphics!).
  • No more feeling paralyzed by all the tools in Adobe Illustrator — you’ll be an illustrator whiz in no time.

 

Exclusive bonus: The first 10 students to enroll will receive a free printed workbook!

So scoot on over and enroll in the new + improved Share-worthy Design course, and snag one of the limited spots for the printed workbook.

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Registration ends Wednesday, May 4th, so grab your spot while you can!


PS: Here’s what Kristen, a Share-worthy Design student, had to say about her experience with the course, and her final designs as a result from the course:

“If you want to learn how to use good design to grow your brand like a pro, Jamie is your girl. I’ve gone from clicking around randomly in Illustrator hoping something will work to actually understanding how the program works and what it can do for my specific needs. Jamie combines step-by-step instruction with the theories and rules behind good design so that you can feel confident developing consistent, effective visuals that boost traffic and increase your reach. To top it all off, she’s amazingly helpful, responsive, and a dream to work with. I’d recommend this course to anyone!”

April 21, 2016

An inside look at how I designed my e-course

How I designed + created my e-course | Spruce Rd. Sharing the valuable resources and tools that I used to design my e-course. Everything from which platform to use, designing the logo and promoting the course.

Creating an e-course is no joke. Though I knew this going into it, I somehow thought I would create this super comprehensive course for Share-worthy Design, well branded no doubt, in no time. Whelp — that was a bit naive. The research alone to selecting the right topic, outlining your lessons, and committing to a platform can take up so much of your time. Not to mention actually creating the content for your course, editing the videos (if yours is a video course), and promoting. Needless to say, you are no doubt feeling overwhelmed as you read this intro! But that’s not my style. I in no way want to deter you from pursuing creating a course and sharing your knowledge. I’d rather give you an inside look into how I designed + created my course, with hopes of helping you in the process.

If you’ve thought of creating an online course, or have one yourself, this post is for you. Below are a few of the tools that helped me create my course. There are a wealth of options to choose from today, but after wayyyyy too much research, these are what I landed on. Hope this helps!

Design

Branding: Design, as you might expect me to say, is what builds trust in your brand. If you are selling a product or course, you most definitely need to earn the trust of your potential customers before they hit purchase. Without their trust, your sales will suffer. Hence — why creating a quality brand design is crucial.

Because I’m a brand identity designer, I developed the design for the Share-worthy Design course myself. (yay for saving money, and a fun side project!) I opted to create a fresh name + accompanying logo and identity for the course. A lot went into this decision, and it wasn’t one I took lightly. Learn why I decided to create a separate identity for my course.

Designing your e-course | Custom illustration for Spruce Rd.

Custom Illustration: Let’s all take a minute and swoon over that stunning illustration. (ohhhh ahh!) Seriously, I’m still as smitten with it as when I saw the first proof. Though I design some illustrations myself, I never claim to be an illustrator. That is an entire different design than branding. I reached out to an illustrator who had a similar aesthetic, and she created this beauty for me. We have since worked on client branding projects together, and I’m so happy to have another member of the Spruce Rd. design team!

This illustration took my course branding to the next level. It’s fun, branded, and graphic — and has allowed my brand to really expand from using bits and pieces from this design.

How I designed + created my e-course | Spruce Rd. Sharing the valuable resources and tools that I used to design my e-course. Everything from which platform to use, designing the logo and promoting the course.

Design Software: I used the “big three” Adobe programs for my course. Okay, no one really calls them the “big three” but that’s what I refer to them as since they are the ones I’m in daily. I’m talking about Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop. Illustrator is hands down my fav, so I used this program to design the branding, promotions, and even the sales page (prior to developing). The course workbook was created in Adobe InDesign. I have no fear of this program, since using it daily for the past 6 years. It’s a close second to Illustrator in my book! I designed the workbook to be printed (!!!!) for the first few people who sign up for the course. Adobe InDesign allows for the best software in designing printed books. I also created a PDF for those who aren’t the first few to sign-up and receive the physical workbook. For promotional images that included photographs or mockups, I used Adobe Photoshop.

In the Share-worthy Design course I walk through how to use Adobe Illustrator, and a bit of Photoshop, showing you exactly how to create your logo design, branded elements (hello patterns + icons), down to promotional images to help launch your e-course or product.

Photography

How I designed + created my e-course | Spruce Rd. Sharing the valuable resources and tools that I used to design my e-course. Everything from which platform to use, designing the logo and promoting the course.

Custom Photography: When creating my brand early last year, I reached out to a fav photographer of mine (Holly Booth) for a few custom branded images. I can’t recommend her enough! I’m still using these photos and customizing them for various uses. You can see a few examples above of how I customized the photos to promote the course. To see more examples, check the Spruce Rd. instagram.

Samsung Galaxy S6: Shhh… I traded in my iphone for an android this year. I somehow feel a bit of unnecessary guilt over that, but honestly feel as though I made the best decision. I mentioned earlier I’m a chronic researcher, and this purchase was no exception. As we were on a layover, I researched my little heart out to find the best phone for my business. It was time for me to upgrade from my sister-in-law’s hand me down iphone, and I was ready for a change. My #1 priority was to purchase a phone with an awesome camera. I’ve never been too impressed with the iphone camera, and had no idea what I was missing out on.

The Samsung Galaxy phones beat every phone (within that price range) in terms of photography. Low lighting? No problem. Seriously, purchase this phone if you want better photos, and are okay living without imessage.

Video

I use Quicktime to record videos (free on your macbook) and ScreenFlow to edit ($99). I used to edit only in Quicktime, which worked fine for a while. When updating the course this go around, I wanted to re-do a few of the intros. I ran into a snag when the audio was drastically different between now and when I initially recorded a few months back. Quicktime, as far as I know, doesn’t offer much in the way of audio editing. That’s when I turned to ScreenFlow, and am so glad I did! It is SO easy to use. I literally created 5 short videos for instagram in about an hour. It’s enabled me to get creative with promoting my course as well. Highly recommend :).

I use Vimeo to host my videos. Previously, I used Wistia (which I loved), but alas I ran out of space on the free tier. It came down to which platform was more affordable, and Vimeo did the trick with a $100 to spare.

Website, Membership site, Payment, Email

WordPress + OptimizePress: Most people avoid WordPress like the plague, but OptimizePress makes it so easy to drag and drop your site design. As mentioned earlier, I designed my sales page in Adobe Illustrator, then jumped over to OptimizePress to translate it on web. I finished creating my sales page in a day on OP. Not too bad for someone with limited coding knowledge ;).

How I designed + created my e-course | Spruce Rd. Sharing the valuable resources and tools that I used to design my e-course. Everything from which platform to use, designing the logo and promoting the course.

Teachery: Previously, I hosted my course on WordPress as well. However, this year I opted to switch to a different platform with hopes of streamlining my process — Teachery. Even though I’m a designer myself, and have designed several sites (including the previous version of this course), I wanted a more reliable and hands-off platform. My students pay money for this course, and I wanted to make sure there weren’t any hosting issues (as I’ve previously had), so they always have access to the course.

Teachery has been SO great, and I highly recommend this platform for e-courses. They allow you to focus on your content, rather than get hung up on creating a membership site — which, trust me, I was definitely spending way too much time on that instead of creating my course, or promoting it. I purchased their lifetime membership (one time $900) that allows for $0 transaction fees. If you’re curious what the platform looks like, you can snag a sneak peek through signing up for my free test-drive lesson hosted on Teachery.

Payment: I use Stripe for payment of my course. This integrates well with Teachery, and is a breeze to set up. It has minimum transaction fees as well, so the cheap-o in me feels good about it.

Convertkit: Once a student signs up for the course, they will immediately be added as a subscriber to my email list, and tagged as a SWD member. I have used Convertkit for a few months, and have loved this platform. Yes, it takes some getting used to, but like Teachery they allow you to focus on content rather than get hung up on distractions. Convertkit seamlessly integrates with Teachery as well, so that’s a bonus :).

Last thoughts

Creating an e-course has been a great move for Spruce Rd. It just made sense with my vision, and passion for teaching others what has worked for my business. Not only that, but as you know I can talk for days about branding — and creating this comprehensive e-course has allowed me to do that :). If you are considering creating an e-course, I hope this inside look behind how I created the Share-worthy Design course has helped you in some way.

If you are ready to take your idea to the next level, or improve your current e-course / product branding, I’ve got just the resource for you. The Share-worthy Design course for Infopreneurs teaches you how to design your own beautiful branding without needing to hire a designer, or fumble through Adobe Illustrator on your own.

Test drive a lesson from the Share-worthy Design course | Spruce Rd.

You can even test-drive one free lesson from the course to make sure it’s the right fit for your brand!

Save the date for next Wednesday, April 27th, when the Share-worthy Design course re-opens! This course is completely revamped and is so comprehensive. I left it all out there on the table and shared my logo design process, Adobe Illustrator tutorials, and how to design promotions + templates for your products/courses. Sign-up to stay in the loop for registration details next week. And mayyyyybee there will be a free printed workbook (!!!) as a bonus to the first 10 who sign up.

April 14, 2016

Ultimate guide to launching your online course or product

Ultimate guide to launching your online course or product | Spruce Rd.

As an infopreneur, your brand is all about your expertise. You’ve got a growing audience waiting for you to show them how to do that thing you do best… and you’ve got an idea for the perfect course or product to do just that. But where do you start? In this article, I’m sharing the process behind launching your newest product or course. If this is your first time venturing into this territory, I’ve got ya covered on where to start.

Let’s dive in!

Hone in on your topic

Before getting wrapped up in the logistics of your latest info-product or course, you first need to hone in on your topic. Arguably, this is the most critical and toughest part of your product (speaking from experience). If you are creating an educational product, chances are you have a decent background with a depth of knowledge to select from.

I don’t have any quick and easy ways to finalize your topic, as it truly depends on each brand. For my brand, blogging really helped identify which topics I had passion for (and could talk your ear off about), as well as what my audience responded to. Sure, a few topics come to mind, however you don’t have to create one product that encompasses everything. You can branch off into future products, or even develop more specific offerings down the road.

I remember writing a blog post at a coffee shop, with the header “branding”. It was in Evernote, and was a sort of brain dump of ideas, rather than a fully structured post. What began as one post, evolved into a blog post series, and later into a full-fledged e-course. Branding is my passion in design, and therefore it made sense to center my brand around that topic.

But maybe you don’t have a blog quite yet, or you find yourself passionate in multiple pursuits. If this is the case, take some time exploring what you could write an entire blog post series on — even if it never gets published.

Consider your audience

If you have an established brand, with an audience of any size, the second step in launching your offering is to consider your audience. A great e-course or product can’t achieve successful sales unless your audience has showed interest. Gauge what questions they are asking you through email, which instagram posts receive the most engagement and which blog posts achieve the most shares.

You also don’t have to feel too restricted by your audience. Maybe you offered a freebie a year ago, that was super successful in getting subscribers to your inbox, but you’ve found that isn’t really the type of audience you want to speak to. That is completely okay. Just remove the freebie (as painful as it may seem), and brainstorm who makes up your ideal audience for your topic.

If you are new to the online world, and don’t have anything to reference quite yet, put some teasers out there. Smaller facebook groups centered around your topic idea are a great place to start. Peek around and see what questions are being asked, and which have the most engagement. I wouldn’t advise you base your entire offering off of these facebook groups, but they serve as a great starting point. I would also warn you from getting caught creating something that is too similar to what’s already been done. This can be an easy trap to fall into when basing your product off of an audience other than your own. This is just a starting point :).

I would also warn you from getting too knee deep into a course/product without first testing the waters. This doesn’t mean you have to create a free course, e-book or other product. You can simply write a few blog posts, share your insight on social media, host a free webinar or Periscope. Make sure you have a few people who show interest in your topic, and who become aware of who you are.  

Once you know who your audience is, build a profile for them. What types of questions do they have, what are their struggles, and how can you help? The more you understand about your audience, the better your product will be geared toward them.

How will you deliver your product?

Once you’ve got the topic + audience in mind, the next step is to determine which type of product you will offer.

Here are a few info-products to consider:

  • E-course
  • E-book
  • Physical product
  • Digital product

 

Does your topic conduce itself best to a full-out e-course, or would a digital product be more appropriate? Determine whether how your content best makes sense for your customers. If it is a premium product, consider incorporating as much “done for you” concepts to save them the most time. These can include templates, e-mail copy, or worksheets. I have a mixture of a few delivery methods in the Share-worthy Design course, because I know everyone works differently. For this upcoming launch on April 27th I’m adding a physical product component through printing the in-depth course workbook! (stay tuned… you will get one for free if you are one of the first few to sign up!)

You can also offer tiered pricing if you are feeling especially ambitious! Select 2 or three delivery methods and separate them by price. Maybe the lowest tier is a simplified e-book over your topic, and the highest tier is a premium e-course with case studies.

Lots to consider in this step of the launching process!

Write your product/course content

Now down to the nitty gritty! It’s one thing to brainstorm your offering all day in Evernote, and a whole other thing to actually create the darned thing. Spend some time outlining your offering first, then schedule enough time to finalize content. Though I have videos for my e-course, and often speak candidly and off script, I write out each lesson. This helps me fully consider the entirety of the course, and plan accordingly. These notes also help me create slides that guide the students through the lesson.

Organize your content in a way that guides the customer through the process in the best light. If there is a particular order you’d like your students to go through in your e-course, be intentional about navigating them through your topic in way that is easiest to digest.

Select a platform

With a wealth of platforms and tools out there, it can be SO easy to get paralyzed when selecting which platform works best for you. I know I am definitely guilty of pulling out my calculator and determining which product generates the most profit on my end through minimal transaction fees.

If this is your first go at an info-product, I’ve indicated below with an asterisk (*) which ones I recommend you start with. I’ve done thorough research on this topic for my own offerings, and wasted WAY too much time testing products that aren’t the right fit. Here are a few recommendations to help guide you:

E-courses:

  • *Teachery: A self-hosted e-course platform. I’ve switched to this platform for my course, and have no regrets. They offer the best rate for transaction fees (aka 0%) if you purchase the lifetime one-time-pay option. If you are new at e-courses, I recommend not diving knee deep quite yet with the lifetime plan, and suffer through transaction fees from one of the lower tiers first. Test it out, and make sure it works for your business.
  • Teachable: A self-hosted e-course platform. Great alternative to Teachery, and offers more customization. I’ve heard great things about this platform. With more customization comes more time fiddling with the platform and less about launching your e-course. Trust me, I’ve been there (see next bullet point)
  • OptimizePress: This is a WordPress theme or plugin. I used OP for my entire course over this last year, but recently switched to hosting on Teachery since WordPress in general is too complex for my needs. #aintnobodygottimeforthat I still use OP for my landing page + sales page, since it allows for the most flexibility on my own domain.
  • Wishlist Member: This is the membership plugin that I used to supplement OP. I would recommend this plugin if you are on WordPress.
  • Memberful: An alternative to Wishlist Member. I’ve heard mixed reviews, but overall great things about this plugin.

 

Digital + physical products:

  • *Gumroad: A great tool to sell your products. They are on their own platform, therefore you can use it if you are on WordPress or Squarespace. Gumroad offers the ability to have a subscription product, physical products with shipping info, or even hosts your videos for you if you have a recorded workshop for sale. I use this tool, and highly recommend it. Super easy to use and get started.
  • Squarespace: You can purchase a commerce account to easily sell your products, or even services.
  • Shopify: If products are your thing, and plan to make it a huge part of your business, I would advise hosting your site on the Shopify platform. They have created a great tool to streamline the selling process.

 

Develop a brand design for your offering

Now we’re getting to the fun stuff! I honestly did things out of order for my e-course, because I couldn’t wait that long before designing the branding for the course. I totally geeked out over it, and knew as a designer it would take some time for me to commit to one design for myself. Designing for yourself is tough business, y’all.

Test drive a lesson from the Share-worthy Design course | Spruce Rd.

Before diving into design, you need to first determine whether you should create a fresh brand for your offering (ie: new logo, colors, type, the whole shebang), or if your product/course should be tucked under your current brand design. If you aren’t sure what the answer is to this branding quandary, I’ve released this lesson for free. So go ahead and watch the free lesson from the course, and determine which is the best plan for you. I’ll say that there is no one right and universal way to brand your products, and that instead there are a number of things to consider. Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through it in the free lesson.

Here are few elements to consider designing for your product:

  • Primary course/product logo
  • Typography selection
  • Color palette
  • Layout style (for e-books, or workbooks)
  • Photography style
  • Illustration aesthetic

 

Spread the word

Last, but certainly not least, is spreading the word about your latest offering. This is the icing on the cake, and you definitely should not neglect it. Promoting your course or product should be a priority in your process. Share behind the scenes peeks on instagram, write blog posts relating to your topic (practicing what I preach here!), and create images that show your potential customers what you’ve created.

I’ve got a whole slew of ideas for you in the Share-worthy Design course, and even walk you through how to easily create these branded images on your own. Don’t feel afraid of sharing what you’ve worked so hard on. Yes, you might lose some of your audience when you start selling… but that only means you are refining your audience to those who want to hear you and support you. I’ve been guilty of allowing that fear to prohibit me from spreading the word, and I’m sure sales suffered because of it. Lesson learned though, your audience wants to encourage you and see what you are up to! They follow you, or subscribe to your newsletter, for a reason. Show them what you’ve been up to!

PS: Save the date for April 27th for the launch of the Share-worthy Design course! If you want to build hype for your launch, this is the course for you. You’ll learn how to create your own course or product logo, and full brand identity, as well as how to create those promotional images that spread the word about your offering. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me (hello@sprucerd.com) and let me know! I’d love to see how I can help.

 

April 7, 2016

How to brand your business + flagship products

How to brand your business + flagship products, Spruce Rd. | Once you are ready to transition your personal brand (whether it be a service-based income, blog, consulting, or any other type of business) into info-products, you will most likely encounter some sort of branding quandary. Should you separate your primary brand from your products? In this article we'll touch on how I've managed my brand + sub-brands.

Once you are ready to transition your personal brand (whether it be a service-based income, blog, consulting, or any other type of business) into info-products, you will most likely encounter some sort of branding quandary.

  • How do I portray my same message, yet appeal to this new audience?
  • Do I need a new logo for each of my products / courses?
  • Will this transition confuse my existing audience?

 

These questions are completely natural, and totally understandable for your business. You don’t want to lose the integrity of your brand, or the core message behind it when making a shift. I went through this myself when adding on digital products + courses to my existing graphic design service-based business. Things get a bit tricky when expanding your business into new territory.

Because so many of us are expanding into selling products + courses, I’m sharing my insight as a brand designer on how to create a cohesive brand within multiple products.

Stay tuned for the end of this post to sign-up for a free lesson from my upcoming Share-worthy Design course, diving into more specifics on branding your products.

Understanding flagship products

Before getting to the meat of this post, you are probably wondering what qualifies as a “flagship product.” I’ll be honest, I don’t even really like that term… it sounds so technical! You can call it signature offering, flagship, or just plain ole products/courses (which is how I will refer to it as).

Essentially these products/courses are your premium offerings. They consist of your best material, and offer high value to your customers. Whether they are physical products, digital downloads, online courses, or e-books, these products showcase your best work.

Simple one page PDFs, opt-ins to your newsletter, or smaller products are not what we are discussing today. Those certainly have their place within your brand, but aren’t necessarily the types of products you will want to brand separately from your business.

Why brand your products/courses?

Maybe branding your products hasn’t even crossed your mind. You might have assumed that in order to maintain a cohesive brand, all of your sub-brands, products and courses need to look the same. That can certainly be the case for some brands, however you might find yourself in a dilemma mentioned above.

Branding your products allows them to stand out, get noticed online, and most importantly — sell. You’ve done the hard work of pulling together a premium product, the last thing you want to do is neglect the design that draws people in. Think of it in terms of a quality, beautifully written book. Unfortunately, sales will suffer without a compelling book cover. Cheesy example, but you get the point. Design matters.

How I manage my primary brand + sub-brands

Whew — you are putting me on the spot here! Rather than talk in theory, I’ll share a glimpse into how I brand Spruce Rd. and all of its products/courses.

Classes: Currently I offer one class on Mastering Content Upgrades (from a design point of view, as well as how to use LeadPages), but plan to offer a few more in the future! Though these classes are packed with value, they are not my most premium products. They go super in depth on one specific topic, rather than an entire course. Because of the nature of these classes, I have branded them under the same look + feel as the Spruce Rd. brand.

Lunch + Learn: This workshop series brings together fellow creatives to learn something new during our lunch breaks — whether that is design, branding, business or freelancing. The series also falls under “Spruce Rd. branding” because it isn’t a premium offering. I did create its own icon for the series, but that serves as a mark more than a logo.

Free downloads + workbooks: Again, these fall under the “Spruce Rd. branding” and not as separate brands. I don’t want them to lose connection or dilute my primary brand. These products provide value, but aren’t my most premium offerings.

Physical products: I’ve been working on something BIG behind the scenes, that I’m hoping to launch next year. It will be my first physical product, and I seriously can’t wait. This product will be premium and specific, so I’ve opted to create a separate brand for it (logo, colors, etc) yet it will still feel connected to the Spruce Rd. aesthetic. That’s all I can share for now!

Share-worthy Design Course: This online course teaches students how to design their own branding. There are two tracks: Infopreneurs (opens in a few weeks!) and Freelancers (coming this summer). Both courses offer a very specific and premium education to the students, and therefore I’ve created its own brand. The Share-worthy Design course currently lives on its own domain, has its own logo + colors, yet still maintains a cohesive design aesthetic as Spruce Rd.

Test drive a lesson from the Share-worthy Design course | Spruce Rd.

Want to test-drive a lesson directly from the Share-worthy Design for Infopreneurs course?

I thought so :)

Watch a lesson from the course (for free) to learn how to brand your products + courses. I’ll walk you through when you should keep them under the same brand, and when it would be appropriate to create a new visual identity for your offerings.

Hope you enjoy the free lesson!